|« Prev||Section XLVII. The Most Recent Philosophy.||Next »|
The philosophical ethics of the two last decades, based in general on Hegel or on Herbart, shows a manifestly growing approximation to the Christian world-theory; but because of the rather unphilosophically356-inclined spirit of the age, it has exerted less influence upon society at large than the immediately preceding philosophy.
The most recent times have suddenly shown, after an excessive and almost morbid intensity of enthusiasm for philosophy, an all the greater lack of earnest interest therein. The excessive expectations were soon followed by, discouraging disappointments; and while at the beginning of the century the most crude products of philosophy, if they were only presented with assurance, were sure of an enthusiastic welcome, the, in general, far more mature and more scientific and profound works of recent times have met with but cold indifference; and though the philosophers of the present day have some reasons to complain of the thanklessness of the educated world, and that only ambitious rhetoric is now able to win applause, nevertheless this state of things is clearly explainable as a reaction from the wild intoxication of the past.
Nearly contemporaneously with Hegel wrote Herbart of Königsberg. Taking up his position outside of the historical development-course of philosophy, and, in keen skepticism, discarding the unity of the principle of reality, he had in his elegantly written “Practical Philosophy” (1808) thrown open a new path. In his view the previous treatment of ethics, as the doctrine of goods, of virtues and of duties, makes the will of a twofold character—a norming or commanding one, and a derived or obeying one,— and hence makes of the will its own regulator; but this is impossible and absurd. On the contrary, a will-less judgment as to willing precedes all actual willing; this judgment cannot command, but only approve or disapprove; but it never acts upon the will as strictly isolated, but always as a member of a relation. Hence all willing presupposes moral taste, which has pleasure in the morally-beautiful; thus the moral is conceived essentially esthetically. The esthetical judgment as to the will leads it to action but not necessarily; the will should be obedient, but it can be disobedient; taste is immutable, the will. is flexible; thus manifests itself the idea of inner freedom. Together with this idea Herbart assumes still others,—ideas 357which are connected, but reduced to no real unity, with this idea, and which precede all exertion of will, namely, the ideas of perfection, of benevolence, of right, and of fitness; by virtue of these five ideas the moral taste passes upon an act of the will, directly and involuntarily, a judgment of approval or disapproval. The full realization of the moral is society, as expressing itself in different stages.—This work of Herbart, though little regarded in its day, contains in its details many profound and ingenious thoughts; the violently original character of the whole is very stimulating, but not satisfying; the unity of the theory as a whole is defective.—Hartenstein wrote in the spirit of Herbart, his “Fundamental Notions of the Ethical Sciences,” 1844, a work full of thought, and presenting a much more candid view of the realities of life than the writers of the Hegelian school, and not unfrequently assailing Schleiermacher and Hegel with keenness and success. As primitive ethical ideas, he assumes those of inner freedom, of benevolence, of right and of fitness. Similarly also Allihn: “Fundamental Doctrines of General Ethics,” 1861.—(Beneke: “Elements of Ethics,” 1837, entirely empirical, and only partially based on Herbart.—Elvenich: “Moral Philosophy,” 1830, based on evangelically-modified Kantian views.)
The “Speculative Ethics” (1841) of Wirth sprang from the Hegelian school, but deviates therefrom in many respects; the Pantheistic fundamental view is not entirely overcome; (ethics is “the science of the absolute spirit as will realizing its absolute self-consciousness into its likewise infinite reality;” in details it offers many good thoughts, though also many mere empty phrases, especially where it treats of religious morality; to close the development of ethics with an amateur-theater as one of the most important moral agencies, is surely a very odd fancy).— Chalybäus of Kiel: “’System of Speculative Ethics,” 1850,—doubtless the most important treatise on philosophical ethics in modern times. Chalybäus, in his work, breaks entirely away from the Pantheistic view of Hegel, and treats ethics on the basis of the idea of personal freedom, and does not, as Hegel, regard the ideal and the real as in perfect harmony, but on the contrary recognizes evil as merely possible in virtue of freedom, and hence 358its reality as only fortuitous and guiltily-incurred, but not as necessary. A candid, sound view of reality is combined with an ingenious development of thought in clear vigorous language; and notwithstanding a few cases of the lowering of Christian doctrines, this philosophical ethics expresses the Christian consciousness, in many cases, more faithfully than does Rothe’s “Theological Ethics.”—Also J. H. Fichte (son of the philosopher) places himself in his “System of Ethics,” 1850, upon a decidedly theistical stand-point, and strongly emphasizes the idea of personality, which in Hegel falls into so dubious a back-ground. (The essence of the moral appears as love, which, as an “unselfing of the personal ego,” is carried out somewhat one-sidedly so far as to throw the validity of self and of right quite too much into the back-ground.)—K. P. Fischer (of Erlangen): “Elements of a System of Speculative Ethics,” 1851,—briefer than the preceding works, freighted with thought,—likewise an essential advance of recent philosophy toward a deeper comprehension of the Christian consciousness. (Martensen: “Outlines of a System of Moral Philosophy,” 1845. Schliephake: “The Bases of the Moral Life,” 1855,—inspired by Krause, empirical toward the close, but keen and judicious).—In this place belongs also, in part, the ingenious and deeply Christian work of Stahl: “The Philosophy of Right—”251251 1830, 3 ed., 1851. based in the beginning rather on Schelling, but afterward more independent; the idea of the human personality as a copy of the personality of God is, in contrast to all naturalistic philosophy, raised to the full significancy and to the foundation of all morality and of all right.
(The preposterously original Schopenhauer goes back to Indian conceptions, and finds morality only in an annihilating of the individuality. The will to live is the root of all evil; the denying of this will is virtue. The will must turn away from existence, must turn to will-lessness; for existence is absolutely null, and the will a delusion, from which we must become free, Vulgar suicide is indeed not right, for it is a phenomenon of a strongly-affirming will; on the contrary, a voluntary starving of one’s self to death is a real moral sacrificing 359of the will to live. “The two Fundamental Problems of Ethics,” 1841; “The World as Will and Conception,” 1819, ’44, ’60.)
|« Prev||Section XLVII. The Most Recent Philosophy.||Next »|